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Four Views of Revelation Class Outline Ray Wimsett

Interpretive Approaches

I. Historicist view
A. God revealed the entire church age in advance through the symbolic visions of the Apocalypse
1. Running account of church history
2. One Modern Day interpertation of the events of Revelation is
a. Chapter 6: The Roman Empire in decline (The Seven Seals and the Four Horsemen)
b. Chapter 7: The spread of Christianity (The 144,000 chosen ones)
c. Chapter 8: Fall of the Western Roman Empire (The first four Trumpets)
d. Chapter 9: The rise of Islam; fall of the Byzantine Empire (Fifth and sixth Trumpet)
e. Chapter 10: The Protestant Reformation (The Angel with the Little Book)
f. Chapter 11: The French Revolution (The death and resurrection of the Two Witnesses)
g. Chapter 12: The Christian Persecutions (The Woman and the Dragon)
h. Chapter 13: The 1260 years of Papal dominance (The two Beasts and the number 666)
i. Chapter 16: Events of the last 200 years: (The Seven Vials)
(1) The gradual diminution of Papal temporal power (The first five Vials)
(2) The return of the Jews to Palestine (Sixth Vial)
(3) Fascism and Nazism (Unclean spirits like frogs)
(4) World War II and the Jewish Holocaust (The Battle of Armageddon)
(5) Events still future (Seventh Vial)
j. Chapter 17: The Napoleonic Era (The woman Babylon and the scarlet Beast)
k. Chapter 18 "Laments" the punishment of Babylon, the false Church
l. Chapter 19 recapitulates what has happened so far, after having celebrated the arrival of the true
Church, or Bride of Christ. The latter, also named New Jerusalem, is described in detail in chapters 21
and 22
m. Chapter 20 probably refers to a distant future attack against this glorious City, a thousand years after
her arrival.
3. A common feature of Reformationist Historicist interpretation makes it controversial
a. The identification of the Antichrist (1 and 2 John), the Beast (Revelation 13), the Man of Sin or Man of
Lawlessness (2 Thessalonians 2) , the "Little horn" of Daniel 7 and 8, and the Whore of Babylon
(Revelation 17) with the Roman Catholic Church, the Papal system and each successive Pope himself.
b. Such an identification, however, is not unique to post-Reformation Historicism and has not been held
by all Historicists
c. This position is held by some Futurists and Dispensationalists.
d. Most evangelical protestants do not hold this position on the papacy
B. Adherents of this position are mostly in the past, but modern examples exist
1. Modern commentaries persinging this approach are rare. One example is The Final Prophecy of Jesus: An
Introduction, Analysis and Commentary on the Book of Revelation by Oral Edmond Collins
2. This view has is roots in the Reformation and all reformers were Historicists.
3. Luminaries of the past who took this view would have to include John Wycliffe, John Knox, William
Tyndale, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Ulrich Zwingli, Philip Melanchthon, Sir Isaac Newton, Jan Huss,
John Foxe, John Wesley, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, Charles Finney, C. H. Spurgeon, Matthew
Henry, Adam Clarke, Albert Barnes, E. B. Elliott, H. Grattan Guinness, and Bishop Thomas Newton.
4. A.B. Simpson, founder of CMA held this position.
a. This is not the officail position of CMA
b. Simpson and CMA added pre-millinialism to the statement of faith
5. Modern Seventh-Day Adventists teach it in their Revelation Seminar
6. Some modern day Baptists, espeically in Canada (http://www.historicism.com)
C. Advantages
1. Reformers were all Historicists so you are in good company
2. As a running history, Revelation is relevant to all church ages
3. Some of the mapping of historical events to Revelation fit well.
D. Disadvatages
1. The Historicist view was a reactionary response against the Roman Catholic Church and may have

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Four Views of Revelation Class Outline Ray Wimsett

prejudices built into it.


2. Though the dominate view in the Protestant church for 500 years, it has not had much of a following since
the late 1800's.
3. The is no widespread agreement as to what the symbols respresent other than the Papacy being the Beast
and Islam being the Flase Prophet.
4. Each generatation interprets the times based upon the current events of the time and timelines keep on
changing.

II. Preterist View


A. Preterist comes from the Latin Preter, which means past.
1. 2 major views and a minor one
a. Book is all about fall of Jerusalem
b. Book is about both fall of Jerusalem and the fall of Rome
c. Book is about fall of Jesusalem and Rome as well as a picture of the end of the age
2. Full preterists believe that all the prophecies found in Revelation were fulfilled in AD 70 and that we are
now living in the eternal state, or the new heavens and the new earth.
3. Partial preterists believe that most of the prophecies of Revelation were fulfilled in the destruction of
Jerusalem but that chapters 20-22 point to future events such as a future resurrection of believers and return
of Christ to the earth.
4. Partial preterists view full preterism as heretical since it denies the second coming of Christ and teaches an
unorthodox view of the resurrection.
B. Adherants
1. Church historians trace the roots of preterism to Jesuit priest Luis de Alcazar (1554-1613)
2. Alcazars interpretation is considered a response to the Protestant historicist interpretation of Revelation
that identified the Pope as the Anti-Christ.
3. ButArethus wrote about Preterist view in 6th century
4. The preterist view, particularly the partial preterist view, is a prominent position held by such notable
scholars as R. C. Sproul, Hank Hanegraaff, Kenneth Gentry, and the late David Chilton (who later
converted to full preterism after the publishing of his books).
C. Advantages
1. Makes sense of imminent time references (1:1, 1:19, 22:10)
2. Impressive parallels with Olivet discourse
3. Impressive parallels with Historical accounts of 70AD (Josephus)
4. Renders intelligible explanations of otherwise unintelligible verses.
a. 13:18 Number of Beast (Neros name = 666 in Hebrew)
b. 17:10 7 Kings (1st emperor was Julius Caesar, 6th is Nero)
5. Is consistent with Jesus' parables on the weeds (Matthew 13:24-30)
D. Disadvantages
1. Requires date to be prior to AD70
2. Origin is questionable (Louis De Alcazar popularized it in 16th century).
3. 2nd coming usually refers to Jesus coming in judgement, not his second coming to settle all things.

III. Futurist view


A. This view believes that all or the vast majority of the book takes place in the future
1. This view teaches that the events of the Olivet Discourse and Revelation chapters 4-22 will occur in the
future.
2. Futurist divide the book of Revelation into three sections based on 1:19: what you have seen, what is now
and what will take place later.
a. Chapter 1 describes the past (what you have seen)
b. Chapters 2-3 describe the present (what is now),
c. The rest of the book describes future events (what will take place later).
3. Futurists apply a literal approach to interpreting Revelation.
a. Verse 4:1 is the rapture
b. Chapters 4-19 refer to a period known as the seven-year tribulation (Dan. 9:27).
c. During this time, Gods judgments are actually poured out upon mankind as they are revealed in the

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Four Views of Revelation Class Outline Ray Wimsett

seals, trumpets, and bowls.


d. Chapter 13 describes a literal future world empire headed by a political and religious leader
represented by the two beasts.
e. Chapter 17 pictures a harlot who represents the church in apostasy.
f. Chapter 19 refers to Christs second coming and the battle of Armageddon.
g. This is followed by a literal thousand-year rule of Christ upon the earth in chapter 20.
h. Chapters 21-22 are events that follow the millennium: the creation of a new heaven and a new earth
and the arrival of the heavenly city upon the earth.
4. Futurists argue that a consistently literal or plain interpretation is to be applied in understanding the book of
Revelation.
a. Literal interpretation of the Bible means to explain the original sense, or meaning, of the Bible
according to the normal customary usage of its language.
b. This means applying the rules of grammar, staying consistent with the historical framework, and the
context of the writing.
c. Literal interpretation does not discount figurative or symbolic language.
d. Futurists teach that prophecies using symbolic language are also to be normally interpreted according
to the laws of language.
5. Mostly dispensationalist
6. Believe church is destined to be a failure
B. Adherents
1. The futurist view is widely popular among evangelical Christians today.
2. One of the most popular versions on futurist teaching is dispensational theology, promoted by schools such
as Dallas Theological Seminary and Moody Bible Institute.
3. Theologians such as Charles Ryrie, John Walvoord, and Dwight Pentecost are noted scholars of this
position.
4. Tim LaHaye made this theology popular in the culture with his end times series of novels.
C. Advantages:
1. Luxury of taking literal approach (since it sees as future)
2. Most widely held and taught
3. Appeals to westerners tendency to read everything in a literal way.
4. Can harmonize with current events
D. Disadvantages:
1. Majority is seldom right
2. Book wasnt intended to be taken literally, full of symbolism
3. Historically, comparing prophesy with current events has been disastrous
4. If true, book is 90% irrelevant to the church
5. Fails to recognize or appreciate significance of apocalyptic writing and symbolism
6. Struggles to explain imminent time references. (shortly or about to take place)
7. Not written to God, but to man.
8. The book has obvious lack of chronological progression. (strike against both futurist and historicist view)
a. Seemingly end of world Ch6, 11.
b. Beast coming up out of sea after the beast is already seen.
c. Ch14:8 Babylon fallen, seen again in ch18.
9. Origin questionable.
a. Originated in 1585 by Spanish Jesuit Priest, Franciso Reberra. Done to counteract reformers claim that
Pope or Papacy was the beast or Antichrist.

IV. Idealist view


A. Features of this View:
1. This view is a catch all for any position that does not take a historical or literal view
2. Depicting universal timeless Christian principles
3. Sovereignty of God
4. Vindication of martyrs
5. Spiritual warfare
6. The symbols in Revelation are not tied to specific events but point to themes throughout church history.

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Four Views of Revelation Class Outline Ray Wimsett

7. The battles in Revelation are viewed as spiritual warfare manifested in the persecution of Christians or wars
in general that have occurred in history.
8. The beast from the sea may be identified as the satanically-inspired political opposition to the church in any
age.
9. The beast from the land represents pagan, or corrupt, religion to Christianity.
10. The harlot represents the compromised church, or the seduction of the world in general.
11. Each seal, trumpet, or bowl represents natural disasters, wars, famines, and the like which occur as God
works out His plan in history.
12. Catastrophes represent Gods displeasure with sinful man; however, sinful mankind goes through these
catastrophes while still refusing to turn and repent.
13. God ultimately triumphs in the end.
B. Adherents of this position
1. The allegorical approach to Revelation was introduced by ancient church father Origen (AD 185-254) and
made prominent by Augustine (AD 354-420).
2. Not all adherents use an allogorical approach.
3. Many combine this view with their own. Preterist-Idealist views are very common. Less common but
existing is Futurist-Idealist.
4. Most scholors hold at least a partal idealist view.
5. All liberals have to hold this position or Preterist view with a late date.
C. Advantages:
1. Avoids having to relate specific events in prophecy to actual events.
2. Makes the book of Revelation applicable and relevant for all periods of church history.
3. The vast majority of scholars hold this position or a combination of views with this being one.
D. Disadvantages:
1. Book itself claims to be a prophesy about specific events.
2. Reading spiritual meanings into the text could lead to arbitrary interpretations
E. Progressive Parallelism: William Hendrickson commentary More than conquerors
1. 7 parallel segments. Each segment represents entire church age from 1st coming to 2 (Ch 1-3, 4-7, 8-11,
nd

12-14,15-16,17-19, 20-22)
2. Advantages:
a. Resembles how Daniel is written (parallel telling)
b. Repeated phenomenon in each of the segments.
c. Repeated battles.
d. Repeated judgments.
e. Ref to 2nd coming in each segment.
3. Disadvantages:
a. Refs to 2nd coming, are probably not really ref to 2nd coming
b. Material that seems to be parallel is only so in style, maybe not the events

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